Saturday, April 15, 2017

Lava from Hawaii

f/4.5 1/1000 ISO 3200
f/4.5 1/1000 ISO 3200
Sandy was correct when she described me as a kid waiting for Santa Claus.  We began planning our Hawaii trip approximately 12-months prior to us leaving and the major item on my bucket list was capturing the lava flow on the big island of Hawaii.
We had three options of capturing the flow; hiking out, boat and air.  Thankfully we opted for air as we were able to accomplish so much more in a limited amount of time than we would have using either of the other options.
f/4.5 1/1000 ISO 3200

Paradise Helicopters in Hilo offers an early morning option that we found was available only to professional photographers; otherwise we would have been forced to fly much later than we did. We were able to depart Hilo a couple minutes before sunrise actually seeing the sun as it rose above the horizon.  
Quickie through the front of the cockpit
The helicopter was ours for an hour with the doors off for better visibility.  We began our flight to the lava fields at 120 mph.  Traveling that fast without doors at dawn was downright chilly however as soon as we pasted over the first part of the lava flow the temperature quickly rose to the point we felt we were back in Arizona.  Once there we slowed down and began photographing.
f/4.5 1/1000 ISO 3200
f/4.5 1/1000 ISO 1600
I decided to take a chance and used a Schneider LS 240mm lens attached to a Phase One XF body and a 100-megapixel IQ-1-100 digital back.  Not a lightweight combination for shooting through an open door of a helicopter.  It turned out okay as I was sitting next to Pete our pilot and able to give instructions.  We were hooked up to an intercom however since I needed one hand to press the button to speak I quickly stopped doing that and used hand signals which Pete followed perfectly.
I set the camera at ISO 3200 and shutter priority at 1000 figuring the f/stop would take care of itself.  My fastest shutter was 1/4000 with a slow 800 ISO.  All files were processed using Capture One Pro.
f/4.5 1/1000 ISO 1600
We flew at around 1000-feet (305-m) most of the time except when we flew over the lava flowing into the ocean and then we couldn’t go any lower than 1500-feet per park rules.  I thought the flowing lava looked much like a fiery waterfall however I recently saw this described as a “firehose”.  I think both are accurate descriptions.  
f/5.6 1/1000 ISO 3200
Slight crop
f/6.3 1/1000 ISO 3200
f/5.6 1/1000 ISO 3200
Explosion” is a much deeper crop and actually shows the effect the lava has as it flows into the ocean.  Notice the rocks exploding outwards.  Nothing beats a 100-megapixel image file!
This is not a crop! This is the lava flowing in-between lava that had already cooled.  
f/4.5 1/4000 ISO 800
One last image.
f/4.5 1/4000 ISO 800

Am I pleased with the way the Phase One XF worked? Yes.  Am I pleased with the Schneider LS 240? Yes.  Am I pleased with the 100-megapixel IQ1-100? Oh hell yes!  I also want to point out that I had no problems with quick focus, shooting 142-files and coming back with at least 140 “keepers”.  So in the end if you wonder if a Phase One XF and IQ1-100 is capable of keeping up in the fast pace shooting environment such as this, worry not.
More Hawaii images coming soon.





Friday, April 14, 2017

Fuji GFX 50S

120mm f/32 0.5 ISO 6400
120mm  f/32 1/4 ISO 6400

I was excited last year when first Hasselblad and then Fuji introduced their mirrorless medium format cameras.  Hasselblad was first in showing what the X1D would look like and I’ll admit I found it attractive.  However after Fuji introduced the GFX 50S I began to like that body better even though it is larger.  In comparing the specifications of both cameras I began to be swayed towards the GFX mainly due to what I already shoot with (Phase One XF).  The body reminds me of the XF and I particularly like the top LCD screen, the ability to use the EVF as a waist level, and more importantly the articulating LCD touchscreen back panel.
32-64 at 32mm f/8 1/60 ISO 100

I now have three lenses for the GFX, 63mm f/2.8, 32-64 f/4 and the 120 f/4 macro, and am very pleased with them.  One of my more favorite lens on the Phase One XF is the Schneider LS 40-80; the downside is size and weight as it’s just too heavy to carry around your neck for any length of time.  The GFX has a cropped sensor similar to my first digital medium format back, the Phase One P30+.  That said I was very interested to learn that Fuji released their 32-64 lens for the GFX.  When taking in the crop sensor of the GFX the 32-64 is the same focal length as the Schneider 40-80. Additionally, both the IQ1-100 and GFX are CMOS sensors so for me, the GFX is much like having the smaller lighter brother of the XF/IQ1-100.
32-64 at 64mm f/8 1/250 ISO 100
32-64 at 34mm f/8 1/500 ISO 100
Different tools in the bag.  While the GFX is great for what I want it to do for me it nevertheless has limitations.  Crop sensor vs, full frame; 51.4MP vs. 100. There are more however these are the top two-on my list.  The Phase One will always be my go to tool when weight and size are no issue and especially when I want the very best resolution.  The GFX on the other hand will be a better fit for those times when I do have a weight restriction. 
32-64 at 64mm f/8 1/160 ISO100
32-64 at 32mm f/8 1/160 ISO 100
There has been a lot of talk about processing the RAW files and in large part I agree.  I have been using Capture One for many years and routinely use it when processing either the Phase One files or Sandy’s Sony files.  Sadly at the moment I cannot open the RAW directly into Capture One and don’t agree with using any “hacks” as proposed on the web.  I have found that Adobe ACR works well as does processing in Photoshop CC.  I understand many like Light Room however try as I have, I just can’t get to the point I like using Light Room and prefer Photoshop.
32-64 at 43mm f/5.6 1/200 ISO 200
63mm Camera set to "Auto" f/4 1/35 ISO 6400
This a good example of why I like the rear LCD. This was shot from the hip using the LCD for framing. The camera was set at f/8 1/60 and auto ISO that turned out to be 6400.
I found a 720nm infrared filter in a storage drawer and decided to try it on the 32-64. This was shot close to noon at f/11 6.5 seconds ISO 100. The file was opened in Adobe ACR before processing it in PSCC.
I’ve begun experimenting with the Wine Country filter kit and will be using it on the lenses in the future.

At the risk of repeating myself I’ll add that I like the camera.  The grip fits my hand nicely. The viewfinder is easy to use as is the LCD.  I like the top LCD and am used to using that on the Phase One XF. I like the fact that the 32-64 is very close to the 40-80 Schneider yet much lighter.  I like the fact that I can shoot low and tilt the LCD to an angle that I can use it without having to resort to the viewfinder. I haven’t done a weight comparison however the GFX is considerable lighter than the XF.  This comes as no surprise however there is a huge loss in resolution coming from 100-megapixels to 51; yet the RAW files have been stunning. 
The GFX replaces a Sony A7rII I had been using. It was never meant to replace my Phase One XF.  I was somewhat surprised at the file sizes when I downloaded the first images.  The typical RAW Sony A7rII file is 41MB while the IQ1-100 is 133MB and the GFX is typically 111MB.  The Sony RAW files once opened and saved as a Tiff will reach 240MB; the IQ1-100 reaches 580MB and the GFX will more than double to 293MB.  Not overly scientific just nice to know for on the road storage needs. The battery has lasted a full day of shooting, still uncertain why Fuji decided to place it where they did. I also like the idea of having two-card slots however I have yet to use both.
People reading this may have noticed I’m using the Peak Design camera strap.  While I like it, it doesn’t play well as the cord holding the anchor keeps twisting making the strap itself twist almost into a knot, something I’ve never had with either the Sony or Phase One XF.  I’m thinking the fault lays in having to attach it to the anchor point for the camera which also swivels. I’ll be replacing the strap shortly with one made specially of the type of mounting point Fuji decided to place on the camera.

I haven’t yet address how I plan to use this camera.  The answer is much the same as the Sony.  I’m getting to the age that luging around heavy equipment doesn’t work well for me specifically when I’m in an unknown area and all I’m doing is scouting locations.  As nice as the Sony is, it nevertheless isn't medium format (okay call me a snob).  I now have the ability to carry a lightweight medium format camera for everyday shooting as well as scouting locations for more serious work with the Phase One.  Again, just another tool in the kit.
I’ll continue to work with this camera and add more thoughts later. The images included are meant to be a sample of what’s possible. 




Saturday, April 8, 2017

Hawaiian lava from above

Early morning takeoff
We just completed a 38-day stay in the beautiful state of Hawaii visiting 3-islands.  Oahu, Hawaii, and Kauai (we returned to Hawaii a second time).

In planning our shooting schedule the months prior all I heard from Don was lava.  Lava this and lava that.  It got to the point that Don was like a kid waiting for Santa Claus to come only he was waiting for his chance to capture lava.

First View
f/2.8 1/1000 ISO 4000 37mm
f/3.5 1/500 ISO 4000 70mm
f/2.8 1/640 ISO 1600 68mm
We chartered the helicopter from Paradise Helicopters in Hilo, HI for a one-hour flight over the lava fields of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  Did I mention the helicopter was wide open as in no doors?  We were cautioned that we’d be traveling in excess of 120 mph and not to let anything past the door frame.  While it was pleasant on the ground it quickly became chilly as we made our way to the lava fields.  Once we began flying over the lava fields it became very warm and our pilot slowed down and began taking directions from Don who was sitting beside him; hover, turn left, right, backup etc. It took close to 10-minutes to reach the lava fields and taking in account the return flight we had at least 40-minutes to photograph.  We went to the furthest point first which is the area the lava flows into the ocean. 
f/3.2 1/640 ISO 1600 70mm
Both of these images were shot at the point the lava flow enters the ocean and we could not fly lower than around 1500 feet.  Notice the other ways to view the flow; boat and by hiking out over land.
I shot with my Sony A7rII and FE 24-70 GM lens.  I began shooting at an ISO of 4000 with a shutter speed as slow as 1/500 and higher.  The camera was set to shutter priority. 
f/4.5 1/640 ISO 800 48mm
In some places we flew lower than 1000 feet and caught very interesting formations of the lava flow.
f/2.8 1/640 ISO 500 70mm
f/2.8 1/640 ISO 320 70mm
And then there’s the smoldering wood about to catch fire….
f/2.8 1/640 ISO 320
And then there are patterns, waves and other beautiful sights to see.
f/2.8 1/500 ISO 200 70mm 
f/2.8 1/500 ISO 200 35mm
All the above lava images are full frame no cropping as it was shot from the Sony Ar7II.  The next is the only image we decided to crop to show the delicate features of what reminds me of a wing.
f/2.8 1/500 ISO 200
This was the first time I rode in a helicopter without doors as well as the first time I shot lava from the air.  Needless to say I was very excited and am now looking forward to my next air adventure.
Don thanking our pilot Pete for a great adventure. Both are veterans, Don from the Viet Nam War and Pete from the Gulf. 
I have more from our Hawaiian adventure so please stay tuned.
We'll be adding a Hawaii gallery to our on-line website shortly and offering sizes, printing methods etc.